Article 32 hearings are not what they used to be…hire someone with experience to help you through it.

If you have been ordered to an Article 32 hearing, then you have had charges read to you and your command is looking at sending you to a general court-martial. Obviously, you are confused and overwhelmed at this point and probably don’t know where to turn.  What is an Article 32 hearing?  The Article 32 hearing is a proceeding in which a military officer is going to listen to the evidence that the governments presents against you and listen to what your counsel presents on your behalf.  That military officer will then recommend to your General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA) what specifically he or she believes should happen in your case.  The officer could recommend that you face a general court-martial, but he or she could also recommend that you face something less severe or nothing at all.  In my opinion, the Article 32 hearing is very important. However, in December 2014, these hearings became something different from what they were before.  In response to all of the press regarding sexual assaults in the military, Congress revised Article 32 investigations through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) FY15.  The purpose of these amendments was to extend more protections to alleged victims of sexual assault.  These amendments turned what was a “thorough and impartial” pretrial investigation prior to a court-martial into a more subdued preliminary hearing.  Last week, the Secretary of the Army issued some guidance to help implement the new version of these Article 32 hearings.  The Secretary of the Navy already issued similar guidance back in December 2014.  While the Air Force has also issued guidance on these new hearings, the guidance did not come from the Secretary of the Air Force.  The NDAA certainly limits what defense counsel can do at these hearings prior to the court-martial and what an accused can present to the investigating officer.  Before the amendments, defense counsel had a full opportunity to cross-examine alleged victims.  Now, based on the amendments, alleged victims can simply opt out of testifying at the hearings altogether.  Also, these hearings are no longer a place where defense counsel can conduct discovery and do heavy digging into the alleged offenses.  These amendments make both the Article 32 hearing and the court-martial that may follow more difficult for those accused.  For this reason, now more than ever, you need an experienced advocate by your side through this defining time in your life.  If you want to have the best opportunity to better your situation before it gets to the general court-martial stage, you need an experienced attorney representing you at your Article 32 hearing.  Don’t wait, call now.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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